Congressman Elijah Cummings, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, bucked Committee Chairman Darrell Issa Tuesday and released the full transcript of an interview with an IRS employee. His goal was to stop “conspiracy theories” that claim the White House directed the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups.
“This interview transcript provides a detailed firsthand account of how these practices first originated, and it debunks conspiracy theories about how the IRS first started reviewing these cases,” Cummings wrote in a public letter addressed to Issa. “Answering questions from Committee staff for more than five hours, this official–who identified himself as a ‘conservative Republican’–denied that he or anyone on his team was directed by the White House to take these actions or that they were politically motivated.”
Cummings blasted his Republican colleagues for making “several serious and unsubstantiated accusations” that “directly contradict” what the IRS employee said in the June 6 interview, pointing to a May 14 statement in which Issa claimed that the scandal ”was the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year.”
Cummings also took issue with Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, who said on June 12–six days after the interview with the IRS employee–that “we know [the scandal] didn’t originate in Cincinnati.”
“These facts are a far cry from accusations of a conspiracy orchestrated by the White House to target the President’s political enemies,” Cummings wrote. “At this point in the investigation, not one witness who has appeared before the Committee has identified any involvement by any White House officials in the identification or screening of Tea Party applicants for tax exempt status, and the Committee has obtained no documents indicating any such involvement.”
Issa blasted Cummings for releasing the full transcript, complaining it would provide “a roadmap for IRS officials to navigate investigative interviews with Congress.”
“After unsuccessfully trying to convince the American people that IRS officials in Washington did not play a role in inappropriate scrutiny of Tea Party groups and declaring on national television that the case of IRS targeting was ‘solved’ and Congress should ‘move on,’ this looks like flailing,” he wrote in his statement. “Americans who think Congress should investigate IRS misconduct should be outraged by Mr. Cummings’ efforts to obstruct needed oversight.”
The chairman initially supported releasing the full transcripts. On CNN’s State of the Union on June 2, he said “the whole transcript will be put out.” But a few days later he changed his mind, releasing only partial transcripts of interviews with IRS officials involved in the scandal, and saying late last week that releasing the full transcripts would be “reckless” and “irresponsible.”